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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 248


Senator MASON(12.39) — I cannot accept the comments made by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) about the Australian Democrats in this regard. In an earlier speech he impugned our honesty and asked whether we thought in the amendment, which is still in the course of review, we are expressing honestly to our conscience what is the intention of the referendum. The answer to that is yes, we do believe that is so. I would have thought that all the debate that has gone on in this place over the last couple of days and all the statements that have been made by Senator Macklin, myself, Senator Jack Evans and others, would have made it abundantly clear that the Democrats do not regard this amendment as an act of sabotage. It is not an act of sabotage; it is a sincere attempt to convey this matter to the people, if it is to be put to the people-we do not want it not to be-in a way which is not deceptive to them.

I noticed in one of the newspapers this morning a quotation from the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). Possibly not everything he said was quoted but the point that came through quite strongly was basically that the Government was going to put up this referendum which would make sure that the people would not be able to play around with election dates in future. I would have thought that it was clear enough that that is the Government's intention. It wants to try to tell the people that this referendum will provide for elections to be held at the same time-great-and will mean that there will be fewer elections. But that is not the case. Speaker after speaker in this place has made that abundantly clear .

It is less than honest of the Attorney-General to say that the Australian Democrats are taking a dishonest view or breaking agreements or things of that kind. Senator Macklin put a reasonable, rational point of view. It was not necessarily heroic; it was a logical, sensible point of view in which he pointed out that it is the Government that has reneged in this matter. It has reneged on the Australian people and on its campaign promise to associate this whole issue with a fixed term. Has the message not yet got through to the Attorney-General and the Government that the way to get this measure through is to bring back the fixed term proposal? What does the Attorney-General have against it? In opposition he was constantly complaining about the Liberal Party having the facility to call elections at odd times. The Australian people do not want it. That is abundantly clear. They want what applies in other enlightened democracies-a fixed term. It still remains for the Attorney, I believe, to take this point seriously on board and to take it to his Party, saying that the rest of the Senate is disinclined to allow it to have a referendum on this issue on dishonest terms.